Friday, July 31, 2020

Friday Links!

Light this week, which traditionally happens right before school starts, although who knows what's going on with that this year (in the U.S., at least).

Here is a long and extended set of impressions on Flight Simulator, and boy, does it look amazing: Flight Simulator hands-on: Microsoft looks different 20,000 feet in the air. This is huge news: We can see the true face of Van Eyck Lamb of God after latest restoration. This is a fascinating bit of detective work: Ancient trash heaps reveal the Plague of Justinian’s economic toll.

From Wally, and it's terrific: What Makes John Bonham Such a Good Drummer? This is an absolutely wonderful story: He’s 83, She’s 84, and They Model Other People’s Forgotten Laundry. This is both strange and creative: Chalk Warfare 4.0.

From C. Lee, and it's fascinating: Cracking the Case of South India’s Missing Vegetables. I had no idea: Why America’s Craft Brewers All Love a Vintage Candy. This is quite an incredible story: The Cola Fleet: How Pepsi once controlled the world’s sixth-largest navy. The Laundy couple is so awesome that here's another story with additional pictures: Taiwanese laundry-modelling grandparents are surprise Instagram hit.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

A woody perennial plant, typically having a single stem or trunk growing to a considerable height and bearing lateral branches at some distance from the ground.

I've often said in the last few years that nothing Eli 18.11 does surprises me anymore.

Well, almost.

This story is unfortunately going to be diminished because Eli told it, in his voice, and I can't write in his voice. I can, though, give you the gist.

On the second day of his camping trip with his friend, they decided to go to the Shipwreck Museum. Looking on Google Maps, they saw a narrow line that connected directly with the Museum, only about 15 miles away. The main road was going to take them over an hour, so this looked like a huge shortcut.

Readers of this space will already hear ominous music in the background, because I've told several stories of trying to go around traffic (on hockey trips) onto "thin line" roads and winding up on a goat track.

There had been torrential rains the night before and into the morning. At first, the road seemed fine. Then the pavement ran out. Then it became a single-track road. Then they were in mud up to the wheel locks.

Incredibly the CRV made it through all this.

The road kept getting worse and worse, and Eli said he knew they couldn't possibly make it through, but it was so narrow that they couldn't turn around, either, so they just kept going [a note: this is a perfect description of writing a novel.]

Incredibly, after 45 minutes, they were able to see a road in the distance, one that actually looked passable.

Then they saw the tree.

A tree had fallen during the night's storms, and it was completely blocking the road. No way to go around it.

They made several attempts to budge the tree together, but it wouldn't even budge. Eli said, "Then I moved the tree."

I said, "So you and your friend moved the tree?"

"No, he was actually getting in the way trying to help me. So he got out of the way and I moved the tree."

"How big was this tree?" I asked.

"Pretty big," he said, laughing.

"What did your friend say?"

"He said 'What are you?'" 

I've asked this question many times.

I can only imagine how big the tree was, because he is unfathomably strong. But I guarantee it was of the size that humans don't move.

So the tree was cleared, and they continued on, and right before they hit the road, they ran into a wooden shack right in front of them that said "NO ACCESS" and "PROUD GUN OWNER."

Well, that combination has to be respected.

So they started backing up.

Fifteen minutes later (that's a long time to back up), they came to a fork in the road, took the other fork, and wound up making it to the museum twenty minutes later, in almost exactly the same length of time it would have taken on the main road. But without the adventure.

Let me add this to his list of impossibilities: moved a tree. 

Longer, Please

A very short trail I walked on yesterday:

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

What The Actual Hell

Sorry, tree story delayed for one day.

Here is an actual communication from an actual developer, apologizing for a lack of updated information on the status of their game (which is supposed to be in beta this fall):
In the immediate future, we plan to deliver the following communications:
1. Give an explanation of the goals of our new Roadmap and what to expect from it
2. Show a rough mockup of the proposed new Roadmap
3. Share a work in progress version of the Roadmap for at least one of our core teams
4. And then finally transition to this new Roadmap

We’ll approach them in the order above, and we’ll likely need a few weeks between steps, so I don’t want to create the impression that this is happening overnight.

Let's review. This is a four-step process. Explain, mockup, WIP, and transition. Each step takes "a few weeks." So let's say 2.5 weeks, on average.

Over two months, in total.

This is for a roadmap of a game that has already been in development for a decade. Are they creating a roadmap from scratch? Has this odious task finally risen to the top after ten years?

The game is Squadron 42, of course, the single-player version of Star Citizen. 

I'd like to start a Star Citizen's Cow parody Twitter account (love that cow), but their communications have gone beyond parody. It would be like trying to parody Monty Python.

All right, I'm going to plant a stake in the ground here. The beta is doing to be released this fall, only it's going to be more like a pre-alpha. Within six months of that, the project is going to blow up entirely, with the "beta" as proof that development was done in good faith (as a hedge against lawsuits).

Then, an army of hundreds of volunteers is going to spend years trying to fix the game. You know that's coming.

And there will be a legion of "backers" saying that if they could do it all over again, they would.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020


Not me, of course. My idea of camping is sleeping in a bed with only a sheet instead of a sheet and a blanket.

Eli 18.11 went "up north," as reported last week, for a few days of camping with a friend. He sent me a picture of their campsite:

The campsite manager told him that they had accidentally reserved the best spot in the place. This is the kind of thing that happens to Eli all the time, so no surprise there.

The next day, they decided to go on a six-hour kayaking tour. To relax. This is also not surprising.

That's a famous view, and (of course) I've forgotten its name. It looks pretty fantastic, though.

Back on land, the oldest lighthouse on Lake Superior, originally built in 1849 (and partially obscured by the old building):

They also made it by The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, located on Whitefish Point (also known as the graveyard of the Great Lakes). Here's the bell from the Edmund Fitzgerald:

Tomorrow: the strange story of the tree.

Monday, July 27, 2020

This is Monday

Today, I spent three and a half hours rewriting five paragraphs.

Then (fortunately) I went to the golf course for nine holes with Eli 18.11 and (unfortunately) acted like I'd never seen a golf club before. Not even once.

This was after shooting an 81 on Friday (eighteen holes, mind you) that should have been a 77, and also a day when Eli was one over on the back nine.

Golf is like that sometimes. So is writing.

On the positive side, I didn't catch COVID-19 and I didn't get teargassed. Both wins.

Eli has realized that I've turned into Putting Green hero. I don't make putts out on the course, but I'm deadly on the practice green, so deadly that I can beat him when we have putting contests, and he's an excellent putter. He just said "This is not happening" after I drained a 25-footer and a 15-footer to beat him after the round on Friday.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, from Matt Anderson and several others, and I can't recommend this highly enough: Window Swap. It lets you see out from someone else's window, all over the world. I'm looking out one in Berlin-Marzahn right now, and it's beautiful.

Here's something from Chris Pencis, and it's in a similar vein: It's a Wonderful World: go on a cultural trip across the globe

Excellent links from C. Lee. First, and this is interesting, it's Why Monty Python's Life of Brian, once rated X, is now a 12A (and yes, that was intentional). This is very funny: Just personal enough. This is entirely wonderful: You children write illiterate letters. This is intriguing: 1,000-Year-Old Cat Skeleton Suggests Nomadic Herders Cared for Ailing Pet. Oops: IBM job ad calls for 12 years’ experience with Kubernetes – which is six years old. This was inevitable: The most personal device: Researchers probe how much psychological data smartphones generate.

From Chris Meadowcraft, and these are consistently entertaining: Smells Like Teen Spirit Cover In Classical Latin (75 BCE to 3rd Century CE) Bardcore.

From 1964, and it's a tremendous read: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi.

This is fascinating: Study: Magicians’ priming techniques are effective at influencing choice. And this is as well: How the geometry of ancient habitats may have influenced human brain evolution.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Led Zeppelin Was Already Taken

Eli 18.11 and I were talking about how COVID-19 would permanently change our behavior.

"What about sports and stadium capacity?" he asked.

"I'd go to more games if I wasn't jammed in like a sardine," I said.

"That's part of the fun," he said.

"And restaurants. I don't know if I'm ever going to be comfortable going to a packed restaurant again, even with a vaccine."

He started laughing. "Stay at home, introvert."

We looked at each other and spoke at the same time. "Band name." Then we laughed.


I heard something interesting about Beethoven the other day.

Beethoven composed the Pastoral Symphony when he was almost totally deaf (some researchers dispute that now, but it's still generally accepted).

One part of the pastoral symphony is titled "Storm."

After the symphony's initial performance, someone asked him why the Storm section hadn't been more bombastic. He wanted to know why it didn't sound more like a thunderstorm. Beethoven replied, "Any idiot can imitate a thunderstorm. It takes a genius to suggest one."

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

The Do-It-Yourselfer

I've mentioned several times that I have Bose noise cancelling headphones.

I wear them at night to sleep (with no music), and I use them with my old Nintendo DS when I do my Spanish lesson (daily, progress is elusive.)

Bose is overrated, generally, and overpriced, but their NC headphones are the real deal. So I have them.

For noise cancellation, they're perfect--almost. The one flaw, and it's not insignificant, is that the headphone cushion (or earcup)  fabric is so thin that it will split after six months or so of general use. There's an entire cottage industry of companies selling replacements.

I've bought replacements several times over the last three years or so, but when they split last week, I lazily decided that I wanted to just slap some tape over the split and see if it would work. I couldn't find any duct tape, but I did have electrical tape.

I mean, tape is tape, right?

It seems like electrical tape would be similar enough to duct tape to work. Plus, electrical tape is soft, so it would meld itself to the fabric more naturally.

After I cut the tape to fit, I applied it and it was as smooth as glass.

Overly satisfied with myself, I went on with life as usual.

Two days ago, I did my Spanish lesson, and I noticed that one of my ears seemed a little warm. Strange, really.

I finished the Spanish lesson and took off the headphones, then puttered around for a few minutes before going to the bathroom. I looked into the mirror--and saw an enormous tarry oval outline around my ear. 


As it turns out, electrical tape gets sort of melty with heat, and when it gets soft, it also gets gooey. Very gooey.

Somehow, my ears were warm enough (I had just gotten out of a hot shower) to activate disaster.

Sidenote: electrical tape residue is damned hard to scrub off your face.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

The Ghost of Turkish Astrophysicist Dilhan Eryurt is Haunting Me

You laugh.

You fool.

I returned from a very poorly played nine holes of golf, opened my phone, and this is what I saw:

I have never searched for information on this women (who had a formidable and distinguished career). I did not, until she began haunting my phone, even know she existed. 

And yet, she appeared. 

My fate is clearly now tied to the ghost of this woman. I hope she is merciful. 

Monday, July 20, 2020

A Definite Statement

There are only three seasons of The Detectorists, but if there were twenty, I would still watch them all.

On Amazon Prime, for U.S. readers.

The Great White (Green) North

Eli 18.11 is going about four hours north to camp with a friend this week.

It doesn't seem like there should be anything north of here. We live in Canada with an asterisk, just waiting for annexation. The only thing I know that's north of here is Garret, so maybe I'll just start calling Canada "Garret."

That should keep things straight.

Gloria wanted to discuss some camping details. "Eli said he was glad he was only going with Jason, because when he's with Jason and Sam, they don't get along. Group dynamics, you know."

"I'm not a fan of group dynamics," I said. "Or groups."

Friday, July 17, 2020

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, a remarkable bit of detective work: 120,000-year-old necklace tells of the origin of string. And here's more detective work, even more brilliant: New analysis prompts rethinking of date, time for Vermeer’s View of Delft.

From Wally, and these are always so beautiful: The 2020 Audubon Photography Awards: Winners.

From McReynolds, and my god, these are incredibly clever: Musician Transforms Classic Pop Songs Into Medieval-Style Cover Songs ("What is Love" is utterly amazing). I totally agree: You will probably hate camping. This is an absolutely fantastic long read: The Spy Who Came Home. These are surreal and brilliant (live-action Calvin and Hobbes): Hobbes and Me.

From Eric Higgins-Freese, and it's delightful: Nursing home residents pose for album cover recreations, from Adele to Queen.

Damn, I'm listening to the "medieval-style cover songs as I compile this post, and they are just spectacular. What a voice, too.

From C. Lee, and it's a wonderful bit of history: The Accidental Invention of the Slip ‘N Slide. This is unbelievably cool: PlayStation's secret weapon: a nearly all-automated factory. Filthy: How Northern Publishers Cashed in on Fundraising for Confederate Monuments. Well, this is amazing: How Your Heart Influences What You Perceive and Fear.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Discounted For Our Loyal Customers

From 2016:
Adidas has agreed on a new long-term partnership with singer-turned-designer Kanye West, who the German sportswear company poached from arch rival Nike (NKE) in 2013, helping to revive its business in the U.S. market.

The deal was described by Adidas on Wednesday as the most significant partnership between a non-athlete and a sports brand and said it will develop beyond its current lifestyle focus to introduce new sports performance designs. Adidas also plans new stores selling West’s Yeezy branded products.

Well, it's been four years. I wonder how that's going?

That's from the Adidas outlet, and sorry for the image quality (click on it for a larger version that's more legible). Let's zoom in on one of the items circled in red:

Oh, my. 

The lowest discount is $303 marked down to $64.99. That's the lowest. The highest are two different models marked down from $2,203 to $76.99.

I guess that's just a few select Yeezy models that didn't sell. Let me just check. Looks like--86 different models.

Deals, deals deals!

Wednesday, July 15, 2020


Editing is a pain in the ass.

An example: I worked on a rewrite of a chapter for the last five days. This chapter has already gone through 10+ versions, but I needed to dig in and change a few things that are important to the story in later chapters.

It's like a home project.

You make one thing better and sharper, and then everything else nearby starts to look dingy. So you brighten up the surrounding area, too, and before you know it the knock-on effect means you now have 15 versions of the chapter and you're still not quite done.

I know I have to do this, because once you put in this much work, it has to be right, but some days it feels like pulling a loose thread on a sweater and suddenly you're just staring at a huge pile of thread.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Loop de Froot

 If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off.
--Anton Chekhov

It was the first thing that came to mind when I saw the following package at the grocery store:

As soon as I saw it, I realized that a gun had been loaded, and it must be fired.

I bought a box immediately.

When you open the package, the first thing you notice is the smell. Froot Loops have a signature smell of which I am intimately familiar, given that I must have eaten several hundred boxes of the cereal as a kid.

Didn't even need milk. Right out of the box. Then I'd wind up with dry cereal hand. Connoisseurs know what I'm talking about.

Back on task. Pop-Tarts nailed the smell of Froot Loops. It's perfect.

The Pop-Tart itself is more problematic. It's like a zombie--sure, there are still some human qualities, but the essence of the thing is no longer human.

That's what happened here. It tastes like Froot Loops, sort of, but it's not, and it just makes you miss the cereal.

I won't be buying a second box of the Pop-Tarts. I will, however, buy a box of cereal on my next trip. Nice memories.

Microsoft Flight Simulator

This trailer is jaw dropping: Microsoft Flight Simulator - Pre-Order Launch Trailer.

Monday, July 13, 2020


It's certainly not stressful in the U.S. right now.

I mean, it's not like people are dying because politicians are too stupid to make it mandatory to wear a mask in indoor spaces.

In death, freedom?

As we become the deadly laughingstock of the entire world, I like to do this:

That's Townscaper, which is a digital toy. You start with an empty plot of water, and you click on squares.

All you you can determine is the color. Sometimes you don't even determine that.

Then you just click on the square and see what happens.

There are rules about what gets built, but there's no place to read them, and you don't need to pay attention anyway. Just keep left-clicking, and if something happens you don't like, select it and right- click and it goes away.

Can you select a swatch of squares at one time? No. Is there some kind of hidden panel with more complicated building options? No.

Select a color, click on a square.

You can make your space quite big, or quite small. I prefer small, and my little village reflects that.

It's all quite Zen, in it's own way.

Best of all, it's only $5.99 in Early Access. Townscaper.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Friday Links!

Anyone who's seen Blade Runner (especially me, since I've seen it seven times) will love this:
Man turns Los Angeles into Blade Runner after hypnotic aerial footage of illegal fireworks goes viral.

From Wally, and man, this is musical brilliance: Stairway To Gilligan's Island. Yeah, this is terrifying, all right: AI & Robots Crush Foes In Army Wargame. This is very, very cool: How Students Built a 16th-Century Engineer’s Book-Reading Machine.

From David Gloier, and it's huge: Astronomers have found the source of life in the universe.

From C. Lee, and I had no idea this was possible: How to Make Smoked Foods From Around the World on Your Stovetop. This seems convenient: How to move your role-playing game nights online. A terrific article:  The Rise, Fall and Revival of AMD. A remarkable man: How One Man and His Dog Rowed More Than 700 Kākāpōs to Safety.

From Ken Piper, and I approve: Poland Is First Government Worldwide To Add Video Game To Official School Reading List As Educational Resource. This is amazing: Human Interface: What (almost) every button in an F-15C fighter’s cockpit does. Incredible: NASA’s New Horizons Probe Is So Far Away, It Now Sees Stars in Different Positions Than We Do. This is puzzling: A Black Hole Collided With Something That Shouldn't Exist. This sounds like an utter disaster: Your next BMW might only have heated seats for 3 months.

Finishing off this week, from Allen Varney, it's the theme park that just keeps on giving: The Life-Threatening “Ride” That Action Park Actually Decided to Abandon.

Thursday, July 09, 2020

The Most Unfortunate Year

Mom 90.3 has seen it all.

I was talking to Eli 18.10 about the worst year to be born in--in the last century or so--and at first, he said his year (2001) was a strong contender.

The financial crash of 2008, the pandemic, staggering systemic racism in the U.S.--it's a strong case.

I told him, though, that another year had primacy.

1930. That's the year my Mom was born.

She grew up during the Depression. In her teenage years, she was living through WWII. In her twenties and thirties she lived through the terrifying racist white response to the civil rights movement (particularly where she lived during those times, which was Arkansas and Texas).

The Cuban Missile Crisis. The nightmare of Richard Nixon and and George Wallace (Trump is the 21st century incarnation of George Wallace).

THEN add 9/11, the 2008 financial crisis, and the pandemic.

I mean, damn. I didn't even list everything.

She lived through it all, and she's still feisty and forward thinking (love you, Mom).

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Surname Not Included

We were playing golf in a heat index of 101 last Friday.

There was no wind. This meant the flies were out.

On #5 fairway, I stepped away from addressing the ball. "This fly is following me."

Eli 18.11 looked at me. "He's not following you."

"He was on the teebox, too. Right down the fairway with me."

Hole #6, near the green. Buzzing around me.

"There he is."

Eli laughed. "That is NOT the same fly."

"Are you saying that multiple flies are handing me off, like some kind of surveillance team? Are they that sophisticated?"

Eli gave me a look. "Yes, that's the most likely explanation."

This fly just stayed with me, hole after hole.

On #14, I stepped up to the teebox.


I stepped back. "Thomas, I'm trying to hit a drive here."

"You NAMED the fly?"

I nodded. "He's been following me for over an hour now. It seemed appropriate."

"Somehow it's infuriating that you named the fly."

"Ah, that makes it all worthwhile." He laughed.

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Fata Morgana

Entirely by accident, I stumbled on some additional information about the mirages on Lake Michigan.

They're a type of mirage known as "Fata Morgana,"

A mirage produced by cold water/hot air is known as a superior mirage, and a Fata Morgana is a "complex" type of superior mirage that appears just above the horizon.

Particularly interesting is that the legend of the Flying Dutchman appears to have originated from a Fata Morgana.

So many things in our lives appear on the horizon, but always seem to be out of reach.

What I Saw

I saw something that felt like it was out of a dream.

Sunday. I pull away from a stop sign. I have the windows up and the radio is off, so I'm moving in absolute silence.

I look to my left and see a woman riding a bicycle. She's young, maybe twenty or so, but everything about her looks like something from the past. She is wearing a red dress, and has dark hair and big black sunglasses. The bicycle is a vintage style, colored a flat yellow. She pedals by and her dress ripples in the breeze.

It was one of the most perfect things I've sever seen, a moment straight out of a movie. I'm not sure I've ever seen anything more perfectly composed.

Monday, July 06, 2020

Short Today

Sorry, but we played 18 instead of 9 and it was damned hot, so I'm straight up exhausted.

Eli 18.11 has officially figured out his driver. He hit drives of 340, 330, and 320 yards, and it is something to see. I think he'll shoot under par by the end of the summer. Unbelievable.

I'm actually playing pretty well now, but my wrist is bothering me a bit (old).

I thought that living in Canada and going through the winters meant the summer was benign by law, but that's not the case. We've had heat indexes of 100 or higher for a week. Last Friday, we walked 18 and the heat index was 103. Oh, and no wind. It was brutal.

All right, tomorrow I'll have something better for you. Actually, I have good stuff for the rest of the week all planned out. Stay healthy.

Friday, July 03, 2020

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, a magnificent story from my finest friend Mike: Why He Kayaked Across the Atlantic at 70 (for the third time).

This video is astonishing. I'm exhausted just watching it: DH Urban Bike-Comuna 13.

From Ken Piper and this is a stunning story: The Accidental Feminist: Fifty years ago a Southern segregationist made sure the Civil Rights Act would protect women. No joke.

This is long overdue: Japanese Football Team Has A Thomas The Tank Engine Shirt.

One of the most bizarre articles I've ever read: My Little Pony Fans Are Ready to Admit They Have a Nazi Problem.

These are entirely delightful: Re-imagining ALIEN as a Pixar film.

This is remarkable: Digital synesthesia: Tricking your brain into experiencing smell as temperature in virtual reality.

From C. Lee, and it's an amazing story: How a humble Tennessee scientist became a worldwide hero amid coronavirus pandemic. this is fantastic: Hobbies to Hone While Hunkering Down, With Help From Public TV. This is incredible: Can you 3D print Damascus steel? Pretty much, yeah. This is a disaster: Police arrested wrong man based on facial recognition fail, ACLU says. A remarkable bit of research: Mt. Asamayama eruption in 1108 may have led to famine in Europe. This is happening in China, but it seems like a great idea everywhere: For Those Getting Married, a Searchable Domestic Violence Database. Oh, the humanity: The virus didn’t stop a Washington socialite from throwing a backyard soiree. Then the tests came back positive.

From Shimmering Geek, and it's incredible: The Miracle Sudoku.

From Wally, and it's an "inside baseball" look at what restaurants have to go through before they reopen during the Age of Covid: How a Restaurant Reopens, Here you go, LOTR nerds: Lord Of The Rings: 10 Movie References Only Fans Of The Books Understood. This is mime strong: Luggage Handling.

Thursday, July 02, 2020


I talked to Mom 90.3 yesterday, and she mentioned that she'd been unable to sleep the night before.

I said I generally slept well.

So, inevitably, I woke up this morning at 4:30 and couldn't go back to sleep. I stayed in bed for a while, then gave up, had breakfast, and started editing at 5:30.

I had to move my car this morning to another street, due to some maintenance work, and on the walk back I realized how much I enjoy the mornings here. It's going to be very hot for the next week--low nineties--but even then, it's always in the sixties first thing. It's cool.

In Austin, in summer, it's never cool. Even dawn is in the mid-seventies, often higher, and it's never better than a slow boil. There's no chance to recover from the heat of the previous day.

So it was a nice walk, and I'm writing this before I sit down and start editing again. I'm trying to get another few hours in before I start to feel sluggish and tired, because you know that's coming.

Oh, random golf note. Eli 18.11 shot a 37 for nine holes earlier this week. He'll be breaking par soon. When you hit a seven-iron 210 yards (a seven iron!), golf courses are short, and his consistency has really improved.

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Sleeping Bear Dunes

Gloria 5*.0 had a birthday on Tuesday.

Today, she took Eli 18.11 on a hiking trip. Sleeping Bear Dunes, specifically, which is one of those tiny Michigan beaches that is actually quite beautiful. She sent back some pictures.

This is the trail they hiked on:

And once they came out of the woods, here was the beach:

Like I said, really beautiful.

I asked them if they saw any mirages. Unfortunately, they did not.

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